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Cityzi Seeks to Spur Adoption of NFC RFID Technology

In the French city of Nice, residents have begun using NFC-enabled cards or mobile phones to function as tickets on the city's buses and trains, as well as earn loyalty points for shopping at participating merchants.
By Claire Swedberg
For the loyalty application, known as FidBook (Fid is short for fidélité, the French word for loyalty), the phone can be utilized to collect and redeem loyalty points. First, the user downloads loyalty-card data for a specific merchant at the store entrance, by tapping the phone on a smart poster containing an embedded NFC tag. This opens an "enrollment page" from that merchant's server on the user's phone, and he or she can them input any necessary personal data by following the prompts. "This fast enrollment process is a huge benefit for the merchant," Leroyer says, "as it saves him all the paperwork of the traditional loyalty program enrollment process."

Airtag CEO Jérémie Leroyer
Once enrolled, the user can tap his or her phone at the contactless terminal installed at the point of sale (POS) of the three merchant chains, at the time a purchase is being made. Although the Cityzi program will eventually include contactless payment functionality, it currently does not, so users must pay for purchases using cash or a credit card. When the cardholder taps the phone against the reader, sales data is linked to the unique ID number on that phone, along with the user's FidBook account number, in the store's back-end server. When the user has reached a pre-specified amount of purchases, he or she can receive a free product (a free meal after spending €30, for instance.)

The system allows phones to connect to Airtag's NFC portal, enabling users to load dozens of loyalty applications—which the company calls "Services Widgets"—onto their handset. By the end of the summer, Airtag hopes to install NFC POS readers at 50 to 60 merchant locations throughout Nice.

The Cityzi program also includes information services for tourists in the old city of Nice, and is expected to allow contactless payments in the future. The system went live on May 21, after being piloted in Nice for the past year. The project is coordinated by the Association Francaise pour le Sans Contact Mobile (AFSCM), a non-profit group established by France's three mobile network operators (Orange, Bouygues Télécom and SFR) to boost adoption of NFC and contactless technologies. The goal, Airtag reports, is to expand the Cityzi concept throughout the nation as early as 2011, if it proves to be well received by consumers and merchants in Nice.

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